UPDATED: EMA recommends Biogen, Sanofi MS drugs

The market for multiple sclerosis drugs is expected to reach nearly $20 billion by 2020, and Sanofi ($SNY) and Biogen Idec ($BIIB) each want a big piece of that for their oral MS drugs. Today they both got a huge boost.

The European Medicines Agency's Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use recommended both Sanofi's Aubagio, and Tecfidera, or BG-12, from Biogen. The FDA approved Aubagio in September, but FDA action on Tecfidera is set for next week, Reuters reports. A positive nod from the committee is usually followed by European Commission approval a couple of months later.

Just this week, Bill Sibold, the head of multiple sclerosis for Sanofi's Genzyme subsidiary, said that in the 6 months that Aubagio has been on the market in the U.S. it has been prescribed by 80% of all MS specialists. He said most of those were switched from Biogen Idec's Avonex and Copaxone, the Teva Pharmaceutical Industries ($TEVA) MS product.

But now that Biogen's drug is set to hit the market, the climb for Aubagio gets steeper. Tecfidera has been reporting better results than Aubagio. But Sanofi is also counting on approval of Lemtrada, another drug it picked up in its 2011, $20 billion buyout of Genzyme. The company yesterday had some positive news to report on the durable response of the drug candidate during its pivotal Phase III trial.

Sanofi is working hard to replace revenues lost from the patent losses from blockbusters like its blood thinner Plavix. Last month, it reported flat sales for 2012 and earnings off 24% in the fourth quarter and 7% for the year. 

- here's the Reuters story
- more from a Bloomberg story

Editor's Note: The story was updated to reflect the EMA's recommendation for Biogen Idec's Tecfidera.